Wednesday 30 November 2011

The Ghosts - Enough Time

London based quintet The Ghosts (not to be confused with the band responsible for "Stay the Night") was formed by singer/songwriter Alex Starling after the tragic end to the band he played keyboards for, Ou Est Le Swimming Pool. The quintet make psychedelic synth-pop that treads the line between Pet Shop Boys and Empire of the Sun.

Their debut single, "Enough Time", is a great introduction to the band's sound, with the soaring falsetto of Alex Starling acting as the perfect foil for the cacophony of electronics that overpower the song. The music video for the track is a bit of a mind melt, but thoroughly enjoyable

"Enough Time" will be released on January 15th, with a debut album to follow in April.

Susie Soho - Your Way or Not at All

Irish quartet Susie Soho seem to have ticked all the right boxes for success in this country. Nominated for a Meteor Award? Check. Played at Oxegen? Check. Support slots with Damien Rice, Bell XI and The Frames, the trinity of the Republic's music scene? Check. All they need is the right sound, and surely fame and fortune is assured.

Their latest single, "Your Way or Nothing at All", is a fantastic, driving alt-rock track, which seemed to be tailor made for stadium antics, with it's "Ooh oh" hooks just waiting to be used in a call and response fashion.

"Your Way or Not at All" is taken from the E.P "Twelve Twenty Seven", which is available as a free download from the band's website.

Monday 28 November 2011

Album Review - Time Out Presents London: Songs to Define the City

It's a shame that in the digital era, where playlists can be customized at the click of a mouse, that compilation albums seem to be becoming less relevant. Some compilations go on to invent entire genres (such as the legendary C86), whilst others carries personal memories for the listener (The Chartbusters compilation from 1997 still brings back memories of my first time in France as a child).

Released on 28th November, Universal, along with Time Out Magazine, released the compilation album "London: Songs to Define the City." The album is an assortment of songs about England's capital city, aiming to serve as "a musical souvenir of the world's music capital."

The twenty songs on the album seem to be targeted at a safe, middle class audience, with songs from Jamie Cullum, The Kinks and Roxy Music being among the artists featured. That isn't to say that it's a bad album. Although there is the odd clunker on the record (the aforementioned Cullum's "London Skies" is almost devoid of emotion) it is filled with cracking tunes.

Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" is as captivating as ever, "Piccadilly" by Squeeze is a bouncy treat, whilst Pulp's wry tribute Frith Street's coffee shop "Bar Italia" is a welcome inclusion.

Whilst some of the songs on the album might not portray London in the most positive light (how the wonderful "Electric Avenue" by Eddy Grant made it on to the album, with its opening line of "out in the streets there is violence", remains a mystery), the album is a decent tribute to a city that has been the setting of so many captivating stories.

Thursday 24 November 2011

Conor Mason - Passing Colours

I sure do love it when I hear a song from this isle that completely blows me away. "Passing Colours" by Derry based musician Conor Mason is a tender piano ballad, with a voice that is wiser than his years, and filled with luscious harmonies guaranteed to leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Just try to resist the inevitable comparisons to Bon Iver, if you can help it.

The song is available as a free download, so grab it while it's tender.

Passing Colours by Conor Mason

Sunday 20 November 2011

Martin John Henry - Ribbon on a Bough

I love it when you form an image of an artist in your head based upon their album art, only for you preconceptions to be proved wrong once you take the time to listen to it. Take the debut album of Scottish singer/songwriter Martin John Henry, formerly of De Rosa. The artwork of the album, "The Other Half Of Everything", seems to give the impression of an album of pastoral, King Creosote-eque.

However, dig beneath the surface, and you'll find electronic infused gems, such as the lead single, "Ribbon on a Bough," which sounds like the lovechild of M83 and Stornoway. Who says that being lulled into a false sense of security is a bad thing?

Friday 18 November 2011

Codes - This is Goodbye

This isn't really a new song, but its eventual UK release is an event that I've waited three long years for.

I first heard Irish electro-rockers Codes when they supported Maps in the Spring & Airbrake back in 2008. Intrigued by their style, I picked up a copy of "This is Goodbye", and fell in love with it immediately, becoming my summer song that year.

The next year, they signed to Sony Ireland and re-recorded the song for inclusion on their debut album "Trees Dream in Algebra". Whilst I still prefered the original version (being the quasi-hipster that I am), the song retained everything that made it special in the first place, with it's 'grey whilstle test approved' hook and the empassioned vocal delivery from Daragh Anderson.

I saw Codes for the second time in 2010, when they played in the Limelight (supported by The Delays, strangely enough). With a stadium support slot with Keane between the two concerts, it was obvious that the band's showmanship had improved dramatically, with the energy of the room increasing tenfold when the group stormed their way through their set. Even more excitingly, I got the opportunity to interview Darragh for Queen's Radio, where we talked about, amongst other things, what the name of their album, "Trees Dream in Algebra", really means.

Fast forward to 2011, and Codes are finally gearing up to release their debut album in the UK. In anticipation of its release, they have made a cracking new video for "This is Goodbye", and have made the track available as a free download for a limited time. With a promotional push and a UK wide tour underway, it is my hope that the track finally gets the attention that it truly deserves.

This is Goodbye by Codes

Regurgitator - One Day

With their song "One Day", Australian band Regurgitator have quite possibly recorded the most upbeat song about death ever. The polished pop-rock production offers an interesting juxstaposition with the lyrics, which talk about "feeding the tree" and being "dragged under the ground" without fear or trepidation.

"One Day" is taken from Regurgitator's 7th album "SuperHappyFunTimeFriends", and is available to download for free.

One Day by Regurgitator

Thursday 17 November 2011

The Big Pink - Hit the Ground (Superman)

London duo The Big Pink have announced their second single to be taken from their upcoming second album, "Future This", which is called "Hit the Ground (Superman)." Interestingly, the song features a sample from performance artist Laurie Anderson's "O Superman", which was a surprise number 2 hit back in 1981. Could this be their biggest hit since the ubiquitous "Dominos?" only time will tell.

"Hit the Ground (Superman)" will be released on 16th January 2012.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

The Spyro - Teleport My Heart

Well, this is perhaps the closest I am ever going to get to featuring a Eurovision track on the blog (sorry, Waldo's People)

"Teleport My Heart" by 5-piece The Spyro is one of the 40 tracks in contention to be Finland's entry in the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest, although given that the track is very much out of step with what you might expect from a Eurovision entry, I'm not sure whether they will receive the nomination (even though this is the same country that gave us Lordi).

Still, "Teleport My Heart" is an endearing indie-rock track, which takes in influences from Franz Ferdinand, The Strokes, and countless other Anglo-American indie based bands, with one eye trained on the dance floors, and the other as the soundtrack for summer-themed teen comedies.

You can find out more about The Spyro's crack at Eurovision and show your support here. (The page is in Finnish)

Photograph of The Spyro is © Emmi Kahkonen

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Bona Fide Federation - Festival

Did somebody say chamber-disco?

The music of Cork based quintet Bona Fide Federation is an interesting beast indeed, in that it mixes classical instrumentation with an indie-dance sensibility. With the powerful, bordering-on-Adele-esque vocals of singer Triona O'Neill, it's the band that would come out if The Gossip stepped into a matter transporter with Ernst Toch*.

"Festival", their debut single, is currently available to download for free.

*No, I have not just gone onto Wikipedia and found the name of the first classical composer that came up in order to hide my ignorance of the genre. That would just be silly.

Thursday 10 November 2011

Burrows - In the Rugal Folds

Fun fact about LA based four-piece Burroughs: their drummer starred in the music video for "Bounce" by Calvin Harris. Go figure.

Thankfully (or unfortunately, depending on your music taste), the sound of the band is miles away from the knob twiddling of Monsieur Harris. "In the Rugal Folds" is a doom laden post-punk track, in the same vein as White Lies, with a slightly more dancable feel.

"In the Rugal Folds" by Burroughs is available to download for free, and the music video, featuring glitter, girls and gloom, can be seen below.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

TeamABC - Tornado

If there's one thing I love, it's the sound of artists having a good time when recording their track. Just one listen to "Tornado" by Wolverhampton based indie-pop quartet TeamABC gives the impression of a band having an absolute blast, with the spikey energy and lo-fi keyboards calling to mind Los Campesinos! mixed with The Go! Team.

The song isn't perfect - the recording sounds a little rough around the edges and the mixing of the backing vocals seems a little off, but as an introduction to the crazy, sugar-coated indie-pop world of TeamABC, it a charming little ditty.

"Tornado" is available now as a free download.

Maybe Canada - Hometown

Of all the countries that I would expect to find Americana-indebted rock, then Sweden would probably be the last place I'd think of.* But then again, it's not often you come across an artist like Magnus Hansson, aka Maybe Canada.

"Hometown", which is available as a free download, is a gorgeous piece of well produced folksy-rock, with powerful world-weary vocals that seem to have been shaped by years on the road.

*Okay, perhaps Eritrea or the Central Africal Republic, although that's largely because I didn't realise they were countries until yesterday

Monday 7 November 2011

Echo Raptors - Plastic People

As I've noted on numerous occasions, I am a massive fan of Britpop inspired artists, which is probably why I have such a soft spot for Belfast based quartet Echo Raptors.

Their track "Plastic People", which is available as a free download, is an expansive, psychedelic production, reminiscent of The Verve or Kula Shaker at their most introverted.

I Heart Sharks - Neuzeit

Hailing from Berlin with German and English members, I Heart Sharks make music that blurs the lines between electronica, indie and Britrock. "Neuzeit", which has verses in English with a German chorus, combines the energy of Two Door Cinema Club, the synth onslaught of Depeche Mode and the lyrical idiosyncrasy of Franz Ferdinand.

"Neuzeit" by I Heart Sharks is taken from their album "Summer", which is out now on AdP Records.

Sunday 6 November 2011

Sound and the Urgency - White Kids

The song "White Kids", in the words of Portland based Sound and the Urgency, is "a folktronic ode to shopping malls and future CEOs."

After the odd electric noodling of the first 50 seconds, the song settles into an expansive, acoustic driven track, which despite lyrics like 'I'm going to shoot them down with my gun,' is a surprisingly tender track, sounding not too dissimilar to the heartfelt rock of The Airbourne Toxic Event.

"White Kids" by Sound and the Urgency features on the band's self-titled debut album, and is available to download for free.

Caught Live - Belfast Calling

Venue – Spring & Airbrake/Katy Daly’s/The Limelight

Date – 5th November 2011

This week has been a hectic one for fans of music in Belfast, with seven days of musical events being held all across the city in preparation for Sunday’s MTV EMA Awards from Belfast. Perhaps my most anticipated event of the week has been the Belfast Calling event at the Limelight Complex. Twenty-eight artists play over eight stages in an acoustic driven style, with the proceeds from the ticket sales going towards the Alzheimers Society.

Some of the highlights of the evening were:

Katie & the Carnival

Katie Richardson and her ever-changing backing band (there were six on stage with her this evening) put on a great early performance, with her sultry, jazzy style helping to kick-start the evening’s proceedings.

Rams' Pocket Radio

It’s been a long time coming, but I’m finally getting the chance to see the fantastic Peter McCauley, aka Rams’ Pocket Radio, live. The stripped down set, featuring just Peter at the keyboard (which sort of defeats the point of an acoustic performance, if I was being pedantic), is a fantastic one indeed, opening with “Dieter Rams Has Got the Pocket Radios”, followed by the glorious “Dogs Run In Packs”, and several more heartfelt piano-pop numbers. This is music for pulling the heartstrings, then nursing them gently back into place.

John D'Arcy

Playing acoustically without his backing band (The Great Bunch of Lads), John D’Arcy, fitted out in a bespoke red suit, plays through his high energy, pop-rock songs, including “Teenage Meltdown” and “Pop Tart”. Despite his songs usually being more band driven, they sound incredibly fresh when played with just guitar and vocals, with the setting showing off the guitar talents of D’Arcy that I had previously underestimated.

The Vals

Of all the bands playing this evening, none get nearer to the spirit of Belfast’s greatest musical export, Van Morrison, than sextet The Vals. Their soul tinged classic rock goes down well in the setting of Katy Daly’s bar, and it’s great to hear the trombone used it rock music outside of ska-punk. The highlight of the set was the mandolin-led closer “Look to the One."

James Walsh

Quite how the organizers of the gig managed to book the lead singer of Starsailor to do an acoustic set is somewhat of a mystery, but the presence of James Walsh was very much felt by the crowd at Spring & Airbrake. Although he did play several of his new solo songs, as well as covers of “Raspberry Beret” and “Hungry Heart”, the set was dominated by stripped back versions of Starsailor songs, with classics such as “Poor Misguided Fool”, “Silence Is Easy” and “Four To the Foor” acting as a reminder that behind the expansive production, there are some fantastic songs in their back catalogue.

Other artists playing at the event included Duke Special, Yes Cadets, Levity Breaks, Paul Shevlin, Mojo Fury, Sweet Savage & A Plastic Rose.

Friday 4 November 2011

Various Cruelties - Great Unknown

Given that the new year hasn't even started yet, you might think that it is premature of me to declare an early favourite for best song of 2012. However, it is not often that a song like "Great Unknown" by Various Cruelties comes under my radar.

The group have had a meteoric rise, having only formed in the past 12 months, with a support slot for The Vaccines being one of their first gigs. "Great Unknown" is an upbeat anthemic song that somehow bridges the gap between indie and neo-soul, with a chorus that is just waiting to be chanted by thousands of drunken revellers at every festival in 2012.

"Great Unknown" will be released on 1st January on Hideout Recordings.

Calaca Strides - Graves

The enigmatic nature of lo-fi folk artist Calaca Strides makes information on the act, who have just released the debut E.P "Quiet Haunt", very difficult to come by. What I have learned about the artist so far is:

1. The music of Calaca Strides is made by one person, who is based in the north west of England.

2. He was formerly played keyboards in an electro band amongst other projects, which makes his forray into pastoral folk rather intriguing.

3. He takes inspiration from his moniker from the Mexican Day of the Dead and the illustrations of José Guadalupe Posada.

4. The lead track from the E.P, "Graves", sounds as if someone has attacked a Bon Iver master tape with a mix of hydrochloric acid and whiskey, with the finished product sounding jagged, yet somewhat endearing.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Stereo Soul Future - Unmake the Oddity

There is a real timeless feel to "Unmake the Oddity" by Boston based quartet Stereo Soul Future. It's Beatles-esque charm and emotive use strings means that the could have easily come from anytime in the past 40 years. This is music at it's simplest: gimmick free and memorable.

"Unmake the Oddity" is taken from Stereo Soul Future's third album "Ghost in the Night", which is available to buy now.